Tooth Fang and Claw
Maybe the sunlight slanting on the water played tricks on my eyes. Or my mind. Up ahead, past the stinking serrated carcass of the gator stood a man. Dressed in waders and a stained cotton shirt, he carried some sort of gun slung over his broad shoulder, and the bottoms of his legs vanished in murk at the knees.
“That critter done hung you up. Been floatin’ in and outta here for two days, smelling up the place.” He pulled the oaken butt of the weapon from his shoulder and studied the smoking barrel before dragging his black eyes back to me.
I swallowed. “Are you a killer? I mean, THE killer?” A swarm of gnats buzzed in a cloud next to my right ear.
His oblong face creased in a leathery smile, and he never took his eyes from me as he fiddled with a leather sack strung in a diagonal across his chest. “I’ve kilt. Yessir. Lotsa times. But that ole gator was done dead when I got here.” In a lazy motion, he swiped something from the bag and turned his attention to his unusual firearm.
“That’s a musket.” I knew the shape of the oblong blade on the end from my unassailable fascination with guns. Even owned a pearl handled pistol used in the Civil War. The stranger’s weapon was immaculate. Well-oiled. The blade straight and untarnished.
He tamped more shot into the barrel with a long rod. “Ain’t you a smart one?” Another indecipherable cutting of the eyes as I floated up beside him, his gun fire-ready and slung across his shoulder. “Maybe I oughtta keep you out here with me.”
Instinct is the first impulse of fear, one of those minute seconds of flinch that throws our whole hand on the table. He watched fear play across my face for a half-second, and in that time, he read my whole life. Pointing the sharp tip of the musket an inch from my nose, he smiled. “Why don’t you crawl on outta that fool-looking boat and stay a while?”
This week’s series of fiction is set in historic Black Mingo Swamp. To start the series at the beginning, click here. To read more about the history of Black Mingo, click here. Thank you for reading, for commenting and for sharing my blog.